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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

Contribution to Islam                   361
styles set by them, and in general most subsequent modifications
or developments of these styles, likewise largely introduced by
foreign artists, which have remained as models for succeeding
generations of Egyptian craftsmen, are essentially non-Egyptian.
Thus, it is certain that the architectural principles underlying
the construction of the mosque were evolved in Iraq and Syria;
that the art of calligraphy, and the related use of script in
decorative ornament of stone, textile, or metal, spring from,
foreign originsj and that the designs of ceramics and other
utensils have for the most part been introduced from Iraq,
Persia, and even China. To isolate, then, the peculiarly Egyptian
contribution to the sum of Islamic art is a task of the greatest
complexity. The words of C. H. Becker, written some twenty-
five years ago, that cthe really scientific study of Egyptian archi-
tecture and decorative art is still in its infancy, it has not even
been satisfactorily explained what is peculiarly Egyptian in it*1
do not stand in any great need of modification to-day.
Additional difficulties arise from the fact that, for a prolonged
period of her Muslim history, Egypt was combined with Syria
as an administrative province. Moreover, craftsmen were freely
imported—if that is not too mild a term to cover what was at
times forcible removal—from one part of the Muslim world to
another, and non-Muslims were frequently employed by Muslim
rulers. In Egypt especially, Coptic craftsmen were of immense
utility to their Arab conquerors, and their noted skill, above all
in ceramics and textiles, of which abundant evidence is provided
by the material remains of the Coptic period, made a quite
unique impression on the development of Muslim art.
For detailed information on the characteristics of each indi-
vidual branch of art, reference must be made to the abundant
specialist literature of each subject: here the treatment will per-
force be cursory and superficial. It should also be remembered
that the whole science bristles with controversy and partisanship,
1 EJ. ii, p. 23.